Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Spurs Lawsuits

Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States, with an estimated 8 out of 10 Americans experiencing back pain at some point in their lives.  For thousands of sufferers, and epidural steroid injection containing methylprednisolone acetate has provided relief.  Unfortunately, the New England Compounding Company of Framingham, Massachusetts, has admitted to shipping three lots of tainted medication to health care facilities around the nation.  The epidural steroid became contaminated with a fungus, leading to an outbreak of fungal meningitis which has sickened more than 338 people and killed at least 25 in eighteen states. While there are no reported cases of fungal meningitis in Oklahoma attributed to the tainted steroid, the state is affected by an expanded recall of medications distributed by the New England Compounding Company.  Originally, only the steroid was recalled, but after investigation turned up faulty testing and sterilization procedures at the company, the FDA has issued a recall of all medications and drugs produced by the company.  According to an NBC news report, "Federal health inspectors found 'greenish-black foreign matter' present in dozens of vials of supposedly sterile drugs linked to a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis at a Massachusetts pharmacy."  Investigators witnessed numerous violations of regulations designed to ensure quality and sterility of drugs in the facility. Fungal meningitis, unlike the more common bacterial meningitis, is not contagious.  However, the form of meningitis attributed to the epidural steroid shot, aspergillus meningitis, is particularly rare and difficult to treat.  Victims may suffer serious effects including high fever, stiff neck, neck and shoulder pain, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, confusion, sleepiness and seizures.  Many patients suffer stroke or death. The CDC and FDA are collaborating on a multi-state investigation of the meningitis outbreak.  They report that the injection has only been shown to cause fungal meningitis in patients who received the tainted injection for treatment of back pain.  Patients who received the injection for knee, shoulder, and ankle pain have not exhibited fungal meningitis; however, many of these patients have contracted fungal joint infections. It is important to note that epidural injections can have dangerous risks even when the medication has not been tainted.  If the injection is not performed by a skilled practitioner, permanent damage can occur.  For example, arachnoiditis is a painful, incurable disorder associated with epidural steroid injections that are improperly administered and the medication accidentally injected into the spinal fluid. If you are suffering from the ill-effects of a tainted or improperly administered epidural steroid injection, you may be able to obtain financial compensation from those whose negligence or malpractice is responsible for your injury or illness.